This is a non cancerous brain tumour which is slow growing. Nerves have a sheath surrounding them and this insulating layer is produced by Schwann cells, it is this sheath which presents with the tumour causing compression problems for the nerve within. The nerve is the eighth cranial nerve which deals with balance and hearing information which it transmits to the brain. The acoustic neuroma is sometimes called a Schwannoma because of where the tumour comes from, for an unknown reason the Schwann cells begin to reproduce the tumour expands along the nerve and into the brain it is usually pear shaped.
What causes Acoustic neuroma?
Acoustic neuroma’s occurs in two ways, random and inherited- the majority of cases are random and the cause of these is unknown at this time.
The inherited version is combined with the syndrome neurofibromatosis type II (NF2). This is a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on the nerves of the brain and spine (the central nervous system).
They are most likely to be found in middle‑aged adults between the ages of 30- 60. Again for no known reasons they are more common in women than men.
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- Unsteadiness –balance problems
- Hearing loss
- Pressure within the ear
- Facial numbness
There are three ways to treat this condition
Surgery: This is undertaken usually by a Neurosurgeon (brain) and a Specialist in ear surgery- an Otologist the aim is to remove the tumour and to prevent facial paralysis- if the tumour is small enough hearing may well be preserved. Unfortunately if the tumour is large hearing loss may be severe if not total. There are Hearing Therapists available who are able to assist you with counselling regarding coming to terms with hearing loss along with practical advice on the subject of hearing aids and communication- lip reading.
Radiotherapy: or more precisely Stereotactic Radio-surgery sometimes referred to as Gamma knife. The treatment involves the use of a frame which is attached to your head to make sure you do not move during the treatment; and targeting the tumour with radiotherapy beams from many different angles. - After the treatment you will have an MRI scan done every 2 years to monitor it. This treatment is done to slow or stop tumour growth, and is sometimes combined with surgery. As with surgery there is the risk of facial paralysis (loss of movement) and hearing loss
Observation: As these tumours are very slow growing and they have few symptoms if you fall into the elderly category it is often better to leave them where they are and regularly keep an eye on them with an MRI scan. This is because if they are not causing significant problems for you then having surgery is not recommended.
British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA)
Ransom Wood Business Park,
Southwell Road West,
Mansfield NG21 0HJ
Free phone helpline: 0800 652 3143 (24-hour helpline)
Fax: 01623 635313
Please Note: The information provided here should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A medical practitioner should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.
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